The automation technology streamlines have been deployed to modernise processes previously undertaken manually by staff who have now been deployed elsewhere.
Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust provides a range of general hospital services, and some areas of complex care to around 560,000 people living in the South of West Kent and the North of East Sussex.
Applications for the new IoT monitoring technology include critical systems within the Trust’s plant room which are providing information on potential outages that may occur, as well as protecting key systems such as Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC). Storage fridges used to store food for patients are also being monitored to maintain food quality, enabling the team to meet HACCP regulations more effectively.
Avi Rosenthal, senior engineer, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, says: “Due to the occasional dip in power some critical systems need attention, and so the Trust was looking for a reliable automated monitoring alert system to inform the duty engineer of any failure.
“ANT’s IoT monitoring system provides a direct alert to the engineer instead of the traditional phone call from the help desk. If the engineer is unable to attend the fault, the system automatically escalates the alert to other members of staff, and any challenges can be dealt with appropriately.
“We have a more robust process now. If there is a power outage in the IT Hub room, our Uninterruptible Power Supply will automatically kick-in to keep the equipment running, and at the same time our IoT monitoring platform will detect the issue and immediately alert members of the IT team directly on their phones. The process is robust because the response team must acknowledge the alarm, otherwise it escalates to other members of the team. We have the same process for the HVAC system.
Niall Roberts, sales manager at ANT Telecom, adds: “Many teams in the NHS are stretched to the maximum, due to staff shortages and the increased workload from COVID-19. Therefore, deploying technology that frees NHS staff’s time to focus on other tasks that need attention, helps improve productivity. This is where IoT and automation is crossing paths and making a tangible difference too. It improves staff efficiency by automating time consuming manual processes so staff can focus on other tasks as well as playing a pivotal role in ensuring critical systems function as they should. In a high-pressure environment where every second and person counts, these gains are important.”
How the IoT sensors work
During the consultation process, it became clear that an automated monitoring solution using IoT sensors would help the hospital to implement the robust process required to protect their critical systems.
Wireless IoT sensors were subsequently installed in the plant room to continuously monitor power and temperature. Data collected from the sensors is uploaded to a dashboard that the IT team can access and review at any time by logging on to a secure online portal which has military grade encryption (AES128). Thresholds are set and if breached can alert the IT Team on their smartphones so they can investigate immediately. Continuously monitoring and recording conditions also helps the team identify anomalies. For instance, an increase in power consumption is often an early indicator that the equipment has an underlying fault and requires maintenance. This early warning not only helps to prevent future incidents but ensures the equipment is serviced and working at the correct power consumption, which helps to reduce energy bills too.
The consultation also identified other critical equipment, including storage fridges, could be monitored by the solution. The main fridge is used to store food and prepared meals for patients and therefore needs to function properly.
Moreover, for quality and compliance purposes the hospital must take regular fridge temperature readings daily and document the results to ensure HACCP compliance. This process ensures that the food stored has been done so correctly within the required thresholds, if not then this could be potentially harmful to patients. With traditional manual processes, by the time a fridge fault has been discovered, time would be lost and food would likely not be saved or used, resulting in a lot of waste which could be in the region of thousands of pounds.
By automating this process with digitised data collection, ANT Telecom provided a more efficient and reliable process that ensures food quality and helps to reduce food wastage. Staff no longer need to manually record and document fridge temperature daily to comply with HACCP, as this is now done automatically. Furthermore, if there is an issue, an alert is triggered far earlier in the process providing the team time to either fix the fault or move the food, helping to minimise waste.